Aryan-Dravidian Controversy, Part 1/3

By: Mr David Frawley

The British ruled India, as they did other lands, by a divide-and-conquer
strategy. They promoted religious, ethnic and cultural divisions among their
colonies to keep them under control. Unfortunately some of these policies also
entered into the intellectual realm. The same simplistic and divisive ideas
that were used for interpreting the culture and history of India. Regrettably
many Hindus have come to believe these ideas, even though a deeper examination
reveals they may have no real objective or scientific basis.

   One of these ideas is that India is a land of two races - the lighter-
skinned Aryans and the darker-skinned Dravidians - and that the Dravidians
were the original inhabitants of India whom the invading Aryans conquered
and dominated. From this came the additional idea that much of what we call
Hindu culture was in fact Dravidian, and later borrowed by Aryans who, however,
never gave the Dravidians proper credit for it. This idea has been used to turn
the people of south India against the people of north India, as if the southern
ers were a different race.

Racial Theories
The Nineteenth century was the era of Europeans imperialism. Many Europeans
did in fact believe that they belonged to a superior race and that their
religion, Christianity, was a superior religion and all other religions were
barbaric, particularly a religion like Hinduism which uses many idols. The
Europeans felt that it was their duty to convert non-Christians, sometimes even
if it required intimidation, force or bribery.

    Europeans thinkers of the era were dominated by a racial theory of man,
which was interpreted primarily in terms of color. They saw themselves as
belonging to a superior 'white' or Caucasian race. They had enslaved the
Negroid or 'black' race. As Hindus were also dark or 'colored', they were
similarly deemed inferior. The British thus, not surprisingly, looked upon the
culture of India in a similar way as having been a land of a light-skinned or
Aryan race (the north Indians), ruling a dark or Dravidian race (the south

     About this time in history the similarities betweeen Indo-European
languages also became evident. Sanskrit and the languages of North India were
found to be relatives of the languages of Europe, while the Dravidian languages
of south India were found to be another language family. By the racial theory,
Europeans natuarally felt that the original speakers of any root Indo-European
language must have been 'white', as they were not prepared to recognize that
their languages could have been derived from the darker-skinned Hindus. As all
Hindus were dark compared to the Europeans, it was assumed that the original
white Indo-European invadors of India must have been assimilated by the dark
indigenous population, though they left their mark more on north India where
people have a lighter complexion.

   Though the Nazis later took this idea of a white Aryan superior race to its
extreme of brutality, they did not invent the idea, nor were they the only
ones to use it for purposes of exploitation. They took what was a common idea
of nineteenth and early twentieth century Europe, which many other Europeans
shared. They perverted this idea further, but the distortion of it was already
the basis of much exploitation and misunderstanding.

Racial Interpretation of Vedas
Europeans Vedic interpreters used this same racial idea to explain the Vedas.
The Vedas speak of a battle between light and darkness. This was turned into
a war between light skinned Aryans and dark skinned Dravidians. Such so-called
scholars did not bother to examine the fact that most religions and mythologies
including those of the ancient American Indians, Egyptians, Greeks and Persians
have the idea of such a battle between light and darkness (which is the
symbolic conflict between truth and falsehood), but we do not interpret their
statements racially. In short, the Europeans projected racism into the history
of India, and accused the Hindus of the very racism that they themselves were
using to dominate the Hindus.

   European scholars also pointed out that caste in India was originally
defined by color. Brahmins were said to be white, Kshatriyas red, Vaishyas
yellow, and Shudras black. Hence the Brahmins were said to have been originally
the white Aryans and the Dravidians the dark Shudras. However, what these
colors refer to is the gunas or qualities of each class. White is the color of
purity (sattvaguna), dark that of impurity (tamoguna), red the color of action
(rajoguna), and yellow the color of trade (also rajoguna). To turn this into
races is simplistic and incorrect. Where is the red race and where is the
yellow race in India? And when have the Kshatriyas been a red race and the
Vaishyas as yellow race?

    The racial idea reached yet more ridiculous proportions. Vedic passages
speaking of their enemies (mainly demons) as without nose (a-nasa), were
interpreted as a racial slur against the snub-nosed Dravidians. Now Dravidians
are not snub-nosed or low nosed people, as anyone can see by examining their
facial features. And the Vedic demons are also described as footless (a-pada).
Where is such a footless and noseless race and what does this have to do with
the Dravidians? Moreover Vedic gods like Agni (fire) are described as footless
and headless. Where are such headless and footless Aryans? Yet such 'scholar-
ship' can be found in prominent Western books on the history of India, some
published in India and used in schools in India to the present day.

    This idea was taken further and Hindu gods like Krishna, whose name means
dark, or Shiva who is portrayed as dark, were said to have originally been
Dravidian gods taken over by the invading Aryans (under the simplistic idea
that Dravidians as dark-skinned people must have worshipped dark colored gods).
Yet Krishna and Shiva are not black but dark blue. Where is such a dark blue
race? Moreover the different Hindu gods, like the classes of Manu, have diffe-
rent colors relative to their qualities. Lakshmi is portrayed as pink, Saras-
wati as white, Kali as blue-black, or Yama, the God of death, as green. Where
have such races been in India or elsewhere?

   In a similar light, some scholars pointed out that Vedic gods like Savitar
have golden hair and golden skin, thus showing blond and fair-skinned people
living in ancient India. However, Savitar is a sun-god and sun-god are
usually gold in color, as has been the case of the ancient Egyptian, Mayan,
and Inca and other sun-gods. Who has a black or blue sun-god? This is from the
simple fact that the sun has a golden color. What does this have to do with
race? And why should it be racial statement in the Vedas but not elsewhere?

....to be continued...